Program Design Backup

Designing Intentional Leadership Development Experiences

Program design is the first step in using the Student Leadership Competencies and involves selecting competencies, aligning competencies with curriculum, creating buy-in, fostering partnerships, and branding and marketing your program. The following are resources and ideas to help you in the program design process.

Resources for Program Design

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Competency Selection

The Student Leadership Competencies are comprised of a comprehensive list of 60 leadership competencies that cut across all 522 accredited academic programs and a variety of contemporary leadership models (Seemiller, 2013b). Sixty competencies, however, are often far too many for any one program, unit, or even campus to focus on. So, it is important to find a way to narrow that list to only those competencies you want your students to develop. To do this, you can simply select the competencies you want or you can use an existing competency framework.

There are several frameworks provided in the Student Leadership Competencies Program Design Handbook that can be used to help you in competency selection. The following frameworks were created by translating the components and/or research findings of each listed model, theory, concept, and study to the 60 Student Leadership Competencies.

Academic Frameworks

  • Student Leadership Competencies Study: Top 5 Most Prevalent Competencies Across Higher Education Accredited Academic Programs
  • Student Leadership Competencies Study: Associated Competencies By Higher Education Accredited Academic Program
  • Common Core: Top 5 Most Prevalent Competencies Across K-12
  • Common Core: Associated Competencies by Grade Level

Learning Frameworks

  • CAS Standards
  • LEAP: 21st Century College Education
  • Experiential Learning Competencies

Retention Frameworks

  • ACT: Academic Performance and Retention Factors

Leadership Frameworks

  • Center for Creative Leadership: Leadership Gap
  • Relational Leadership Model
  • Social Change Model of Leadership Development
  • Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership
  • Emotionally Intelligent Leadership
  • Gallup: Competencies Associated with Strengths
  • National Association of Campus Activities: College Student Leader Competencies and SLCs

Career Frameworks

  • National Association of Colleges and Employers: Workforce Competencies
  • U.S. Department of Labor: Industry Competencies

Service Frameworks

  • Servant Leadership
  • Leadership Competencies and Community Engagement Experiences

Professional Frameworks

  • Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators

Competency Alignment

Once you have selected the competencies you want to use, the next step is to align your learning experiences with the competencies. This may involve creating a new experience or reviewing your existing experiences and making any adjustments needed.

The competency mapping process can help you assess to what extent you are addressing your selected competencies in the curriculum. This can help you determine strengths and gaps specific to the competencies you selected so you can make any enhancements necessary.

To engage in this process, you will want to use the Competency Mapping Matrix. For more information on how to use the tool and engage in competency mapping, refer to the Student Leadership Competencies Program Design Handbook.

Creating Buy-In

In trying to institute a competency-based approach, it is essential to create buy-in. At the program level, buy-in may only need to come from colleagues and a supervisor, whereas at the department or campus level, many more stakeholders need to be involved. The four main points you can discuss when seeking collaboration, partnership, buy-in, or joint visioning around the Student Leadership Competencies are described in detail in the Student Leadership Competencies Program Design Handbook.


In addition to working with academic departments and Student Affairs units, there are three other key stakeholder groups you may want to partner with. These include academic advisors, employers, and community partners. For a description of building partnerships with these stakeholder groups, refer to the Student Leadership Competencies Program Design Handbook.

Branding and Marketing

Once your learning experiences reflect your intended competencies, it is time to for branding. The Student LeadershipVision Competencies lend themselves nicely to creating a consistent brand across departments, units, and even the campus. The key to branding is to use the same language and same images over an over so that students equate meaning with what they see and hear. If a student attends a workshop labeled as focusing on Vision, that student will come to understand what to expect from any experience that explicitly focuses on Vision. You want students to develop this familiarity and understanding so they seek out intentional opportunities and later on, can easily articulate their learning. To assist with branding, consider using the Student Leadership Competencies marketing icons to display on print and digital marketing materials.